Deconstructing THE WALKING DEAD – S6 E1 – Season Premiere

The season premiere stars with a bang. There’s a giant rocky quarry, barricaded with transport trucks, and filled to the brim with tons of zombies.

When one of the trucks falls we know Alexandria and our heroes are in great danger. Rick observes the insanity and calls it like it is. He has a plan, “Come for them, before they come for us. It’s that simple.”

THE WALKING DEAD is back!

Legendary practical effects wizard Greg Nicotero directs, employing a bold and stylish storytelling technique. He weaves in Black & White flashbacks throughout the episode. This compelling structure keeps us on our toes.

The visuals also pay a big homage to the comic book source material – which is drawn in Black & White.

The flashback stuff kind of reminds me of the way LOST would tell their stories. It really enhances the anticipation and helps frame the present in a more powerful context. The effect of transitioning between colour and a world of greys is also subtly manipulative.

When the scene shifts to colour, we instantly get more excited. We’re back in the present… with a quarry full of zombies to deal with, right. When it shifts back to B&W, we know it’s plot time. We can relax and absorb some character development.

Later in the episode, it also allows cross-cutting between planning to deal with the walking dead and enacting that plan.

Before we get more into that plan, let’s get into a new character that was introduced: Heath, a comic book favourite, is played by Corey Hawkins who was Dr. Dre in this summer’s smash hit STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON.

So, we have some nerdy excitement here on a few levels.

Heath is part of the Alexandria community. He was just out on a long mission. so we haven’t me him yet. Eugene, our man with the mullet, guards the gate and lets Heath and his crew inside.

There was a great joke in their introduction, as Eugene says, “Finally someone like me… I fully respect the hair game.”

A returning character has a big role this episode – Carter, the wall builder, played by Ethan Embry (from 90s cult classic CAN’T HARDLY WAIT). He opposes Rick’s plan to build walls and coral the herd.

Later, he even goes so far as to plan Rick’s assassination with fellow Alexandrians. Of course, Rick busts the plan, saying “You should have had a lookout.” More on that in a bit.

See, Carter thinks that herding the massive horde of zombies is to dangerous. He doesn’t trust his own walls. That’s what led to his own plan to kill Rick. Our fearless leader knows what’s right though.

Earlier, during the exciting and intense opening sequence, a zombie squeezes through the small space between trucks. Its skin peels away, flaying the living dead walker. Eventually, more will sneak away and head to Alexandria. Our heroes need to be proactive.

Before we get to the outcome of their plan, let’s jump around in the timeline like the episode did and briefly touch on what’s going on with the rest of our survivors.

Tara is okay, she didn’t die from her injuries last season. Eugene is happy for that, and so is Tara. She sarcastically jokes, “Thank God nothing happened to your hair.”

The next best joke came when Morgan and Michonne argued about the last peanut butter protein bar. By the way, Morgan is turning into a badass like Michonne. Someone taught him how to use that bo staff right. Maybe we’ll find out who later?

Morgan also had a great moment with Rick. He says, “We gotta get to know each other again… for the first time.” Another highlight was when Morgan holds Judith. Rick remembers the man he met long ago. The man who lost his son. And Morgan remembers too, “You’re still the man I met.”

Glenn told Maggie to stay behind and keep an eye on the Mayor, but he also just wants her safe. He still doesn’t trust the Alexandrian who got Noah killed and lured him into the woods to murder him. Understandably, he doesn’t want to hang out with this Judas. Maggie reminds him of Tara, how she was with The Governor, and now she’s her closest friend. She advises Glenn that people can change.

Glenn goes on a mission with Heath and Judas. They have to clear out a store because the walkers inside are making too much noise. This will draw their herded horde off the path. Judas isn’t ready for this, saying, “I thought this was supposed the be a dress rehearsal.”

Glenn quips back, “Yeah and I’m supposed to be delivering pizzas, man.” Now, he delivers mercy… to the base of a zombie skull. Sorry, that sounds like a Grindhouse movie poster tagline.

Once the living dead are let out “Dre” holds his own, dispatching a few zombies, while “Judas” is ordered to stay back. Glenn still doesn’t trust him, despite what Maggie said.

Next thing you know, Judas saves Heath’s life, redeeming himself, and earning back trust. Glenn, abiding by some apocalyptic warrior honour code, saves the last undead shambler for Judas – “Get it.”

Here are some select nerdy quick cuts…

Black & White Rick looking all Marv from SIN CITY. Those Bandaids! — “Pretty flowers.” LAND OF THE DEAD homage of zombies looking up at flares as a distraction technique. — Daryl as a Harley driving Pied Piper badass, leading the zombies away from Alexandria. He’s so used to the walking dead he looks bored and totally -not- scared by them any more. — Rick strikes out with the former beaten wife and newly single. She’ll train her son how to use weapons herself. Dang, is this storyline over? — Morgan calls Carol’s bluff: she’s no innocent, she’s a calculating observer. Carol deftly replies by aiming a smile like a handgun, “Aren’t you sweet.”

THE CLIFFHANGER (spoiler free)

Alrighty, my fellow nerds, let’s deconstruct the cliffhanger of this intense roller-coaster ride (SPOILER FREE – as possible).

First, Rick discovered the quarry when he heard the distant buzzing as they buried “the murderer” in the woods. They find the biggest horde yet, trapped. We already know the plan: Walls. During the construction, Rick lets Carter take on a stray zombie. Everyone needs to learn sometime. However, the builder can’t do it.

Soon enough, we get some context for this situation.

Rick busts Carter’s assassination planning. So, now we have to wonder if Rick was showing Carter who’s boss, like “You wanna kill me? But you can’t kill a weak walker? Good luck, pal.”

The layers continue. Later, the plan works. Carter shakes Rick’s hand, paying respect and apologizing… or lulling him into a false sense of security?

By the end we have our answer, and it isn’t pretty. Morgan and Michonne’s reaction (to the non-spoiled twist) was haunting. Morgan says, “I know it’s how it is now.” Michonne replies with heartbreak, “Yeah. I know too.” What’s neccessary isn’t always easy.

That cliffhanger, eh?! The plan was working, the zombies were led away. Alexandria was safe. Then a frickin’ horn blares. Loud as f**k, drawing all the walkers back to Alexandria. Their home. Where everyone unfit to fight stayed behind.

They were so close to completing their daring mission. This just goes to show you how incredibly hard it is to win against the walking dead. At least, Carol, Carl, and Maggie are protecting home turf.

THEORY TIME

W = The Wolves

Now, who honked that damn horn? Well, I’ve got a nerdy little theory for you. We all want to know more about The Wolves right. So it’s no big assumption to point to them. I already have my theories on these guys (check last season’s reviews).

As we played catch up this episode, and briefly met all our favourite characters, we saw Carl with a girl his age. She has showed up here and there, escaping the neighbourhood to be on her own in the woods, but we still don’t know that much about her.

My out-there twist is she is the daughter of The Wolves Leader. She ranaway from their camp, perhaps after arguing with her father, or disagreeing with their savage ways. Either way, Daddy is upset and wants her back. He just might use the zombies as a distraction, while he sneaks in and get his daughter back.

It seems like an extreme measure to go to, but maybe this guy revels in mass carnage. Maybe he’s a former Alexandrian and wants to level the whole neighbourhood? If he can’t have it, no one can.

Will a famous comic book character and his favourite bat make an appearance this season? Is he the leader of “The Wolves” for the TV show?

Stay tuned for more nerdy theories all season. I can’t wait to watch the next episode. As always, I hope I’m wrong with my theories because I want to be surprised. They ended the episode so well, it sparks the imagination.

Who honked and why? We’ll find out on Sunday!


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